[A.J. Kinik and Michelle Marek write the wonderful blog,"...an endless banquet", which covers Montreal and its cuisine in an entirely personal and insightful way. This week, they'll be guest-blogging here at This Just In.]
Canada Day weekend got started with what seems likely to become a lasting "...an endless banquet" tradition: the Ormstown Strawberry Social.
We'd been talking about going to one of Quebec's many, many strawberry socials for years now. Home-baked shortcake, fresh Quebec strawberries, whipped cream, a little socializing--what could possibly go wrong? So this year Michelle took the bull by the horns and started doing a little research. That's how she found out the Ormstown Strawberry Social in MacDougall Hall. Though it's situated just 60 km [37 miles] southwest of Montreal along a stretch of the Chateauguay Valley that we know quite well, we'd never been to Ormstown before. Michelle had a good feeling, though. So good, in fact, that she could picture the whole thing: the old Victorian architecture, the well-kept gardens and shade trees and the tidy lawns, the central church, and MacDougall Hall, a stately old town hall sitting next to it. She didn't have an address, but she claimed she didn't need one--she'd just know when we got there. And that's pretty much the way things played out. Ormstown was just as attractive as Michelle had imagined it to be, she knew exactly when to make a turn, and, sure enough, there was stately old MacDougall Hall perched just to the left of the central church. It was early still, it was warm and beautiful out, and we'd brought some sandwiches along for a picnic, so we sat down on the lawn in the sunshine and had our dinner before joining the social.
Things on the inside of MacDougall Hall were more or less just as Michelle had pictured they'd be too. With your tickets in tow--$6 for a large and $3 for a small--you made your way to the eat-in counter (the take-out counter was located in an alcove off to the right of the front entrance). There you exchanged your ticket for your portion of freshly baked shortcake slathered with the ripest, sweetest strawberries imaginable (just stewed to perfection), and a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Once you'd gotten your plate, you sat yourself down at a table of your choice and you were immediately greeted by a friendly man bearing cups and a pot of freshly brewed coffee. We thought we were dreaming. Then we tasted the shortcake and we were sure we were dreaming.
People were definitely kind of curious about us--everybody else seemed to know each other--but when some of the organizers found out that we'd come in from Montreal it caused a bit of a stir. "You drove all the way in from Montreal just to come here?" "How was the Mercier [Bridge]?" "D'ya get stuck in traffic?" "Where did you hear about us?" "What? You read about us on the internet?" When the storm had blown over, we went back to our table, finished our strawberry shortcake, and talked about how, at that moment, there was nowhere else we'd rather be. We meant it, too.
Want to check out your very own Montreal-area strawberry social featuring real Quebec strawberries? Try the Hudson Strawberry Social in Hudson, QC, just to the west of Montreal at the mouth of the Ottawa Valley. It takes place next Saturday, July 7 at the St. James Church. Start time is 5:30 PM, and, yes, there will be a dessert auction.